[Advaita-l] Conduct of Swamijis (was Re: Importance of Ashram)

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 6 01:05:44 CST 2007

----- Original Message ----
From: Ravi Parimi rparimi at gmail.com

Don't mean to begin a flame-war here, but isn't it ironic that an
institute that is committed to spreading the knowledge of vedanta and
supposedly abides in the fact "sarvaM khalvidaM brahma" bases so many
of its actions on caste? When I look at the videos in Sringeri's
website or any others in which Sringeri Swamiji appears, he is often
flocked by  priests or brahmins only, and seems to maintain quite a
bit of physical distance between himself and devotees. I cannot help
wondering if Adi Shankara himself laid down such laws to be followed
by all the leaders of the Shankara matha in subsequent years. If a
book listing such laws does exist, can someone please point the same
to me?

Dear Ravi garu

I write with great respect towards your actual practice of learning the Sruti through international calls.

I am not sure that the main purpose of the various mutts is to spread the knowledge of vedanta; I think it is the upholding of dharma, which has the varNa-ASrama dharma as its bedrock in practice, so to speak. (This qualifier is required because ultimately the virtues of ahimsA, asteya etc. are the more important aspects of practice; but since they are not tangible and not amenable to criticism - they are the same in Buddhism as well - critics ignore them.) The various pIThAdhipatis have elaborated many times on this seeming contradiction between the teaching of vedanta and the practice of varNa dharma. They are quite open about it and do not claim to uphold anything different. That said, the bhaktas are always referred to as the chAturvarNya bhaktas of so and so master. And, in intimate personal matters, Brahmins are not very different from others. For instance, pIThAdhipatis usually do not take food from all Brahmins (even if they are smArtas, or
 belong to the same school in case of jeers etc.); nobody touches the pIThAdhipati's feet during pAdAbhivandanam, and so on.

We are not a people of the Book, in so many senses. To the best of my knowledge, the Bhagavatpada did not lay down any rules of conduct for the pIThAdhipatis, or for that matter, for those of other Ashramas. That had been done by sages like Apastamba, Gautama and Bodhayana, who are all very particular about the varNASrama dharma. The authority of those sages flows from the Vedas, and the Sruti itself says (in Taittiriya Upanishad, SIkshA vallI, in the penultimate anuvAka) that in case of doubt as to what dharma is, the practice of learned and respected Brahmins is the guide. As such, the guiding principle of the practices of pIThAdhipatis, to the extent I heard and understood, is to lay down the standard for other sanatins to follow - and not the requirements or sanctions of their Ashrama (sannyAsa). The socialist in me has often been told by my elders to try to follow the example of these great living sages in terms of personal discipline, control of
 anger and the other enemies, love to all, detachment etc. rather than focus on what is wrong in eating with mlechcha colleagues at office. 

I hope this helps.


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